Region Ten works with high-risk youths and families, and for some time the agency has tried to determine how to strengthen the natural supports and community connections so that individuals and families can have better lives and futures.

The young adults that Region Ten serves typically have significant emotional or behavioral issues and/or have been in foster care. They are especially vulnerable to chronic economic struggles, homelessness, involvement with the legal system, and early pregnancy. As service providers, we can only go so far, since services eventually come to an end, but it is clear that children and families still need stronger connections to their community.

Through our federally funded partnership with The Open Table (theopentable.org) organizations will receive extensive training and support to implement the Open Table model, which supports the idea that people experiencing poverty and other life challenges need more than material items such as clothing or food to improve their situation — they need relationships. Over the course of a year, Open Table volunteers meet on a weekly basis to work with an individual or family seeking support to create positive change towards the life they envision for themselves. The model educates and trains the volunteers, who can be any member of the community. The group of volunteers then forms a “Table,” guided by a “life plan” that outlines goals specific to individuals and families requesting assistance.

In a 2015 study of Open Table graduates, 95% remained in relationship with at least one Table member after two years. In another study, 85% of Open Table graduates are either in training or have better jobs two years after successfully participating in the Table process.

Community Convening is the Open Table model of connecting community resources to people in need. Through Convening, the entire community comes together to support individuals or families in their goals of achieving their hopes and dreams. The Community Convening process aligns the social and relational capital of community sectors to co-invest in solutions that help people have better lives.

On a local level, Region Ten is partnering with Open Table to bring businesses and other private sectors together for the purpose of expanding the number of tables to serve youth and families. Some examples of partnerships in Virginia so far are a beauty salon, auto repair shop and local churches forming tables, and a banking institution committing to sending employees to serve on tables. If there are least 10 businesses or organizations, and each helps three Tables form from their sectors, then 30 families or youthscan have the opportunity to move forward to improve lives.

For a business owner, being part of Open Table is a great way to impact change, collaborate with other business/community leaders, and get your name out in the community.

There will be an event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 13 in the main conference center at the Region Ten offices at 500 Old Lynchburg Road, where the community is invited to come together to learn more about the transformative process. Through the training community members will learn:

» How to use your relational and social capital to connect people in need to community resources.

» How the business and private sectors can co-invest in solutions that help people have better lives.

» How the Community Convening model can improve outcomes and return on investment in the community.

For more information or to make reservations for the Nov. 13 event, please email ellen.shifflett@regionten.org.

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Crystal Lantz is the director of child and family case management for the Region Ten

Community Services Board.

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